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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Awesome Aussie Choisir sparkles in spectacular double

The monster Australian sprinter Choisir and Johnny Murtagh on their way to a game-changing win in the 2003 King's Stand Stakes
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With Royal Ascot just 14 days away, we look back at a memorable event from 14 years ago in the first of a daily series counting down to Flat racing's most magnificent meeting

Three Valleys' eight-length win in the Coventry Stakes made for an explosive start to Royal Ascot in 2003, but just 35 minutes later came a spectacle that was perhaps even more jaw dropping.

The presentations for the Coventry were barely over when most caught their first glimpse of the horse that was to change the nature of international sprinting for the next decade or so.

We had heard the talk – "he's a monster of a horse, like a Brahma bull, and I expect him to be hard to catch," said assistant trainer Shannon Perry – but it was not until Choisir appeared in the parade for the King's Stand Stakes that we started to believe it.

Choisir looked extraordinarily powerful, and with his white bridle, distinctive black pacifiers, and the shoulder branding that we have since become so accustomed to seeing on horses from Australia, he could scarcely have made for a more intimidating presence.

A 5lb penalty for a Group 1 win in his native country was expected to make it tough and he started at 25-1, but he was awesome, showing blistering speed for Johnny Murtagh from his draw towards the middle and quickly crossing over to the rail to take command. 

He needed only pushing out to hold on comfortably from Acclamation and the champion-sprinter-to-be Oasis Dream, in the process entering the record books as the first Australian winner in Britain.

Not everyone was persuaded that Choisir would last the extra furlong just four days later in the Golden Jubilee, and no horse had won twice at the meeting for 20 years, so he was allowed to go off a very backable 13-2.

But he repeated the dose with another powerhouse front-running performance, scoring by half a length from hot favourite Airwave in course record time.

Choisir's dual success opened the floodgates for Australian challengers in Europe's top sprints, and at Royal Ascot in particular. Takeover Target, Miss Andretti and Scenic Blast all won the King's Stand within the next six years, and in 2010 the ex-Australian Starspangledbanner landed the Golden Jubilee.

There has not been an Australian winner since Black Caviar's dramatic victory in the Diamond Jubilee of 2012, and there are no Australian entries this year. But those lucky enough to be at Royal Ascot in 2003 will not forget the horse that started off the invasion.

Choisir looked extraordinarily powerful, and with his white bridle, distinctive black pacifiers, and shoulder branding he was an intimidating presence

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